Today, Easter Sunday, is arguably the most important holiday in Christendom. Well, talking about religion and homosexuality together is quite a sensitive thing and yet, I’m going to do just that but in a relatively shallow manner. (I’ll leave the heavy discourse for a future article.) It’s a known fact that the Roman Catholic Church, of which the majority of Filipinos are a member of—in name if not in practice, is quite critical of homosexuality. The Church leaders say that we should “hate the sin, not the sinner” but I think this philosophy as applied to non-straight people is utter hogwash! This criticism of homosexuality has reached a fever pitch in the past few years ever since Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005. It can’t be denied that the current Pope is unabashedly homophobic more so than his predecessor Pope John Paul II, and it doesn’t help that he doesn’t have the charisma of the late Pope, thus earning him more enemies. (I’m a practicing Catholic, by the way.)
That said, I still feel Christian gay people in the Philippines are still lucky compared to their Muslim brethren in Arab countries. This was recently emphasized when news that three supposedly gay guys where murdered in Iraq greeted me during the start of Holy Week. And to think that two of those three were teenagers! See this news article for details. Being homosexual is punishable by death in many Arab countries and I’m just thankful that most Christian leaders will not go down that extreme path; we would just be called “an abomination” if you believe their interpretation of Leviticus, and simply be encouraged to join ex-gay ministries, which I don’t believe is effective for majority of gay men.
I am also thankful that the Catholic Church is relatively more tolerant than other Christian groups, especially the fundamentalist denominations in America and the Mormons. For example, the murder of Matthew Shepard, a famous victim of a gay-hate crime, was celebrated by the congregation of the Westboro Baptist Church, and their leader, “Rev.” Fred Phelps, even declared that Matthew is now burning in hell for being gay. The Westboro Baptist Church is the organization that maintains the utterly controversial God Hates Fags website, and is probably the most extreme anti-gay “Christian” group. (So they are not representative, mind you.) The Mormons, on the other hand, experimented with administering shock therapy to members found to be gay, as demonstrated in the gay film Latter Days. In addition, the Mormon Church is believed to be the religious group that provided the largest support to promote California’s Proposition 8.
Although I’m thankful that the Catholic Church doesn’t and won’t go to such extremes (well except for the Prop 8 thing), I don’t think that we should be complacent and accept thing as they are. The Church is extremely close-minded when it comes to homosexuality and I guess the best “war front” would be to convince the Catholic lay people that homosexuality is not as reprehensible as the leaders of the religion paint it out to be.